Last night at 11pm Central time was the deadline for teams to offer contracts to all of their players who aren't eligible for free agency or lose them to free agency. These contracts have to be of at 80% of the value of the money they made the season before, so players who significantly underperformed are often not offered a contract or "non-tendered" in the industry parlance. This also opens up space on the 40 man roster for other players. The new free agents are allowed to re-sign with their old teams and often do on minor league deals if no other team is interested in them.
The Cubs chose to not tender a contract to three players, two of which never actually played for the Cubs. Daniel Bard and Mat Gamel were both claimed off waivers late last season from the Red Sox and the Brewers respectively. The third player non-tendered, Chang-Yong Lim, pitched in five games for the Cubs last September.
The Cubs tendered contracts to Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija, Darwin Barney, Pedro Strop, James Russell, Luis Valbuena and Nate Schierholtz. In addition, the Cubs avoided arbitration with George Kottaras and Donnie Murphy, signing them to new contracts for 2014. There had been some talk that Murphy had a lucrative offer to play in Japan, so there was some doubt that he would return before yesterday.
With these moves, the Cubs 40 man roster now stands at 37.
The Cubs weren't the only team coming to decisions on their roster for next season, and all the players who didn't receive a contract offer by yesterday now join the free agent pool. Perhaps the most interesting player on the list is Daniel Hudson, who was a very good starting pitcher in 2011 but has now undergone two Tommy John surgeries in the past two seasons. Hudson hasn't pitched since June of 2012 and is expected to miss all of 2014 as well. Any team wanting to take a chance on Hudson will have to be patient, but the payoff is potentially huge. On the other hand, there is a very good chance that after missing at least 2.5 seasons, Hudson is never an effective pitcher again.
The Angels also released a once-very good pitcher who has struggled with injuries in Tommy Hanson. Hanson was once considered one of the rising stars of the game, but he only made 15 starts last season and was ineffective. The pitching-starved Angels decided to look elsewhere. Additionally, the Angels non-tendered former Cubs pitcher Jerome Williams, who has been decent as a swingman over the past few seasons but made more money than the Angels were comfortable giving him.
But the players that the Cubs are the most likely to be interested are the several relief pitchers that are now free agents after being non-tendered. The Dodgers surprisingly declined to offer a contract to Ronald Belisario, who has been an effective workhorse middle reliever for them over the past two seasons, pitching in 145 games over that span. I suspect that Belisario won't be unemployed for long and that several teams will be in on the bidding for him.
The two big name relievers that were non-tendered were a pair of former closers: John Axford and Andrew Bailey. Both pitched effectively last season in a non-closer role, but both were in line to make a lot more in arbitration than the Cardinals and Red Sox, respectively, were willing to give them. Bailey is also coming off shoulder surgery and will miss spring training and opening day in 2014.
The Rays let veteran left-hander Wesley Wright go, who actually pitched quite well for them after coming over from Houston in August, but was likely due a big salary increase through arbitration that the small-market Rays were no doubt uncomfortable paying. They want to bring both him and outfielder (and Cubs fan favorite) Sam Fuld back at a lower salary, but both are now free to negotiate their own deals.
The Rockies non-tendered Mitchell Boggs, who was ineffective for them after coming over from St. Louis. The Mets non-tendered veteran reliever Scott Atchison, who was effective for the Red Sox in 2011 and 2012 but was pretty bad for the Mets last season.
The big name in position players who was non-tendered was Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, who was out as the starting catcher in Toronto after the team signed Dioner Navarro yesterday. Arencibia was once a highly-regarded prospect and has significant power (he hit 21 bombs last year), but he had problems making enough contact and had a terrible .194 batting average with a .227 OBP last season. That's not just bad. That's historically bad.
The Braves released Elliot Johnson, who is useful because he's played every position except pitcher and catcher over the course of his career.
In the outfield, the Red Sox finally gave up on Ryan Kalish.
So use this thread to go Christmas shopping at the thrift store for the Cubs.